Thousands of tourists have been left stuck in Turkey as volcanic ash clouds from Mt Eyjafjallajoekull show no signs of dispersing.
The ash cloud is covering a great deal of Western and Northern Europe, disrupting flights and leaving many stranded. It’s been five days since European air space was first closed to air traffic.
Flights from Istanbul, Antalya and Fethiye travelling to many European cities have been cancelled, and hotels are quickly filling up as passengers wait for the dust to settle. Thousands more are camping at the airport: sleeping on benches and floors as they wait for any hope of removal.
A number of high-profile visitors have been affected by the eruption. Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves, who was visiting Turkey on a week-long working tour, has been forced to drive back home to Estonia. Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was travelling from Afghanistan to Germany with a number of injured soldiers, has been diverted to Turkey, where he and his charges remain. The soldiers have been taken to the American Hospital.
Meanwhile, hundreds of children travelling to Turkey for the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day festivities on Friday have had their plans disrupted. A planeload of children from Mexico have been stranded at Amsterdam Airport for the past two days, while Bulgarian children are enduring a long bus ride to make the event. Around 1000 children from 41 countries are expected to attend the event.
Rail, bus and ferry routes are experiencing increased demand, and most operators are adding new vehicles to the routes wherever possible.
Analysts are divided on the negative health effects the ash cloud will bring to the country. Some say the ash cloud will appear over Turkey this week, bringing with it acid rain. However, others believe the cloud will bypass Turkey altogether. The cloud has reached Austria, bringing with it lowered temperatures thanks to the particles blocking out the sun.
Turkey’s Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim has promised that the thousands of stranded passengers will receive the best hospitality possible in such trying circumstances, and the Ministry of Transportation is currently working to find alternative routes for passengers who urgently need to fly home. A number of tourism companies have also organised bus trips to help tourists leave the country.